Struggle for Nepalese recognition of Tenzing
More controversy over the nationality of the sherpa conqueror of Everest at the 50th anniversary
This being the 50th anniversary year of the first conquest of Everest, by sherpa Tenzing and Sir Edmund Hillary (as if you didn't know), we can probably expect a fair few Everest stories in the mainstream press. The Observer kicked off at the weekend when it reported on the latest dispute over the nationality of sherpa Tenzing.
Apparently the Nepal Mountaineering Association, supported by Tenzing’s family, is using the anniversary to step up their campaign to make the sherpa a rashtriya vibhutis, effectively declaring him a national hero in Nepal. But so far the Nepalese government have refused to grant Tenzing rashtriya vibhutis status, because shortly after conquering Everest he assumed Indian citizenship and lived there for most of the rest of his life.
Although the story goes that Tenzing was brought up in Nepal, herding yaks on a mountain pass below Everest, he had lived in Darjeeling since his teens and well before his ascent of Everest. On reaching the Everest summit though, it was a Nepalese flag he stuck in the earth. The government of Nepal were then quick to claim the success as Nepalese and awarded Tenzing the Star of Nepal. However, officials were later infuriated when Tenzing took Indian citizenship, and it appears they have yet to forgive him.
The pro-Tenzing campaigners say that the issue of citizenship is a small one, outweighed by his Nepali birth, childhood and self-identity. The anniversary celebrations should help give their campaign plenty of publicity. But even if the Nepalese government were more disposed to let bygones be bygones, the continuing Maoist uprising means that it will probably have other things on its mind.
And quite how all this fits in with the claims of American climber Ed Webster a couple of years ago that “Tenzing was Tibetan”, is unclear.
Check here for the full story on the Observer online.
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